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Ch 3: What future for regional tv news by Richard Tait

Part 4 from Franklin, Bob (2006) Local Journalism and Local Media. Routledge. See preface, ch 1, and ch2.

p.27 For over 40 years, there has been a unique British experiment with regional tv. Independent television (ITV) and the BBC– two competing and complementary systems. One is funded by advertising and the other by a licence fee. Both committed to providing high-quality network and regional programming.

In 2005: there were 18 BBC regions and subregions and 27 ITV1 equivalents (Ofcom 2005a: 241).

TV is the most used and trusted source of information for the UK, and so plays a vital role in the strength of democracy (Hargreaves and Thomas 2002: 62-76).

But the duopoly has ended and deregulation has been imposed.

ITV used to be the dominant regional news broadcaster but has now (2006) lost much of its audience.

p.28 – ITV was created in 1955. it was the dominant regional player until end of the 1990s (see 1990 Broadcast Act effects). It was set up as a regional network. Its regional licences were dependent on the quality of its programming.

The 1990 BA brought in a franchise auction. This meant that licences were awarded to the highest bidder, once a quality threshold had been met. The companies argued that they needed to merge to be able to compete.

By 2004, the Granada Carlton merger meant there was a single ITV company controlling all the franchises in England and Wales. In Scotland, it was the SMG — Scottish Media Group.

To win the 1992 licences, many companies offered to expand their regional coverage.

On ITV1, as on BBC, there was significantly more coverage of the nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — than of the English regions (Ofcom 2005a: 241-5).

But it soon became too expensive for ITV.

Local news became a lower priority and scheduling changes made it worse.

Clive James (2005 chief exec of ITV News): “they also then embarked on messing around with teatime, messing around with the news.”

The major change was a consequence of ITV’s ill-fated decision in 1997 to kill off its most important news programme, News at Ten.


The network news was moved from 17.40 to 18.30, which left regional news programmes running at 18.00, having to compete against the BBC’s very successful network news. BBC regional news overtook ITV’s (Hargreaves and Thomas 2002: 32).

In 1994, ITV’s audience share for regional news at 18.00 was 43%. In 2003, it was 21%.

The BBC’s audience share for its regional news at 18.30 was 34% in 1994 and 30% in 2003.

In 2002, for the first time, the BBC spent more on its regional output than ITV (Ofcom 2004a: 57-62).

Expansion at the BBC

The BBC had an increased focus on regional news under John Birt and his successive directors of regional broadcasting: Mark Byford, Ron Neil and Mark Thompson.

There was a new focus on specialist journalism in areas like transport.

By 2000, the regional news operation had been integrated into the BBC’s network news operations, ending decades of mutual hostility.

Greater integration and cooperation began.

By 2004, the BBC spent three times as much per hour on regional programmes in Scotland than it did in the English regions (Ofcom 2005a: 244).

p.30 Lightweight digital cameras encourage the growth of video journalism. Where once the BBC had struggled to put 80 conventional camera crews in the field each day, it could now rely on up to 400 people trained as video journalists.

p.29 Pat Loughrey — 2005 director of nations and regions, says it (p.30) transformed newsgathering: now between the east region and the Midlands, we have more cameras than we had in the whole UK. That’s the difference.’

TV expanded and a move online also began. 1998 saw the launch of a network of ‘Where I live’ websites in the Nations and Regions.

By 2003/4, spending in the nations and regions at £11.64 million was the 2nd biggest item after national and international news (Graf 2004: 35).

Light touch regulation

The commercial television regulator in 1992 was ITC. Initially, ITC had been concerned about trying to protect regional news. By the end of the 90s, the ITC began to be more sympathetic to ITV’s economic problems.

p.31. Research suggested that ITV’s traditional role in regional TV was under extreme pressure (Kidd and Taylor 2002: 5).

Ofcom calculated that the average cost per hour of regional programming, including news, was £418,000 , compared with an average cost of £86k for network programming (Ofcom 2004a: 60-1).

Ofcom did two things to lighten their load:

1) lightened ITV’s regulatory obligations by cutting back the amount of non-news regional broadcasting had to broadcast, and

2) It adjusted ITV’s licences to allow it more resources to pay for its regional news services.

In Feb 2005, Ofcom agreed that in England, the companies only had to run an hour and a half of non-news regional programming, reducing to just 30 mins once digital switchover was under way (Dignam 2005:5).

p.31. In the nations, the quota stayed at 4hrs; then 3hrs as switchover began (Pike 2005: 5).

In June 2005, Ofcom agreed to reduce the annual licence payments ITV was making to the treasury by the equivalent of £135m (Revoir 2005; 2).

The Last Chance

The incoherent and wasteful structure of ITV exacerbated the growing crisis of audiences and resources. ITV had always had, in Independent Television News (ITN), a single national and international news supplier. p.32. The regional newsrooms, however, were autonomous.

Clive Jones: ‘the only thing that united the ITV regions was their hatred of ITN’.

Amusing anecdote about ITN asking for regional photos for the pre-regional news, given excuses for them not being available but then miraculously appearing for the regional news, 10 minutes later.

With consolidation, attitudes began to change.

Senior managers began to be aware of how bad things were in 2001, when HTV Wales (an ITV company) sold its exclusive pictures of the ‘Prescott punch’ to Sky News, ITV’s commercial rival, and then passed them on to ITN, ITV’s network news service.

Cost savings began to be focused on the regions.

In March 2003, ITN & ITV jointly approached the ITC with a confidential proposal entitled ‘Making News Stronger’. The goal was to make an integrated news organisation for ITV (Tait 2003a; 4).

p.33. 2004: The ITV News Group was created. It had two purposes:

  1. improve quality;
  2. p.33 – “Make ITV Regional News cooperate as one organisation and cooperate with the network news as one organisation” — one of the ITN editors, Michael Jermey

For Clive Jones, ITV Regional News had lost its way, particularly during the 1990s when the programmes had become hard news vehicles with too much emphasis on crime. He said: ‘Given that lots of viewers of regional news tend to be older, I’m amazed that some people went out at night.”

There was a move away from fires and crime. Sets and graphics were standardised; controversially, ITV moved its regional newsrooms out of their traditional (and redundant) city centre headquarters in places like Norwich, Southampton and Birmingham.

They closed and sold those sites, and moved their news operations to smaller, purpose-built facilities in cheaper locations, which could be equipped with the latest digital technology for video journalism and desktop editing.

The concept became known as ‘business park television’. ITV invested £40-£50m in new studios, satellite trucks and digital equipment. There were job losses too but not editorial staff.

By the end of 2004, ITV1’s regional share had risen 2 points to 23%, narrowing the gap with the BBC to 6%.

On programme quality; in Oct 2004, Ofcom said both the BBC and ITV regional news programmes demonstrated high-quality journalism & production values on the big stories.

ITV had a higher overall story count but the BBC carried more specialist reports and more crafted feature reports.

p.34 Local TV and Beyond

By 2005, the gov. had announced that the process of digital switchover would begin in 2008 and be completed by 2012.

At that point, the regional network of analogue transmitters would be switched off and with them, ITV argued, went any obligation to provide regional programming unless it was profitable to do so.

For the BBC, coverage of the nations and regions was a key element in its longer-term strategy.

In 2007, the BBC published a document called Building Public Value, which was its proposal document for the new BBC charter from 2007. It was explicit in identifying social and community value as one of the five main ways in which it created public value (BBC 2004: 8).

Technology, however, meant broadcasters could target smaller audiences.

By autumn 2005, there were 17 stations with restricted service licences from Ofcom, mostly running city-based local television, such as Channel M in Manchester (Newspaper Society 2005). The BBC proposed to launch 20-60 local television stations across the country.

The Newspaper Society argued the proposal should not be allowed to go ahead.

35. Ultimately, the local papers said they wouldn’t be able to compete with public funding.

ITV were planning their own pilots. Ominously, Clive Jones wondered ‘is there a new stream of revenue advertising from property through to cars to classified?’

2005 was also the year ‘citizen journalism’ emerged as a major source of material for broadcasters. This was due to mobile phones with the capacity to shoot and then transmit video and wide availability of cheap, high quality video cameras.

The regional and national coverage of the floods at Boscastle and the 7 July 2005 bombings relied heavily on this form of ‘citizen journalism’.

ITV and the Daily Mail paid a reported £65k for exclusive amateur video of the arrest of two alleged bombers.

ITV’s London Tonight set up a network of hundreds of viewers who were interested in contributing material and who could be text messaged to see if they were in the area when a story broke.

Pat Loughrey built a significant element of citizen journalism into his plans for BBC local television. ‘At least a third of the content of the service will be produced by the public and every site will have a producer whose job it is to nurture and facilitate people telling their own stories.



The key issues about citizen journalism are:

  1. professional implications
    • verification
    • mediation
      • how do regional and local services ensure that the 3rd party material they offer their viewers is accurate and impartial?
    • How do they avoid being hoaxed or hijacked by lobbyists?
  2. Broadcasters’ responsibilities.
    1. p.36. how far can they encourage untrained viewers to act as cameramen, particularly in hazardous situations?

In 2005, December, ITV News Channel closed. Where is it now?


Cornell Note taking

I was revisiting Raul Pacheco’s website recently and was reminded of note taking skills. Since I’ve been taking notes on Local Journalism and Local Media, I wanted to try some new styles. I wrote about it a while ago but haven’t really had a chance to actually take notes. I’ve been busy writing straight onto either Word documents or in spreadsheets.

This is the first time I’ve tried the Cornell note-taking method and it’s been really good. I do actually look back over my notes and answer the questions to recall information (a more useful strategy than just reading), and I easily get into the habit of writing questions for myself in the margins.

I start in the following way. I divide my page into three columns:

  1. Page number column: one thin margin on the left where I put the page numbers,
  2. Question column: one slightly biggish column on the right, for questions, and a
  3. Note taking column: the middle section of the page for note taking.

There’s a better template here, which you can print out. It’s provided by the Research Insiders blog so all credit to them.

The following instructions are from Cornell University. The original instructions are from How to Study in College 7/e by Walter Pauk, 2001 Houghton Mifflin Company

1. Record: During the lecture, use the note-taking column to record the lecture using telegraphic sentences.
2. Questions: As soon after class as possible, formulate questions based on the notes in the right-hand column. Writing questions helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen
memory. Also, the writing of questions sets up a perfect stage for exam-studying later.
3. Recite: Cover the note-taking column with a sheet of paper. Then, looking at the questions or cue-words in the question and cue column only, say aloud, in your own words, the answers to the questions, facts, or ideas
indicated by the cue-words.
4. Reflect: Reflect on the material by asking yourself questions, for example:
“What’s the significance of these facts? What principle are they based on? How can I apply them? How do they fit in with what I already know? What’s beyond them?
5. Review: Spend at least ten minutes every week reviewing all your previous notes. If you do, you’ll retain a great deal for current use, as well as, for the exam.

For those who haven’t tried it, Raul Pacheco’s blog is an incredible resource for doctoral studies.

Ch. 2: News on local radio

Note taking from Local Journalism and Local Media: Making the Local News by Franklin, Bob (2006); Routledge.


1967 saw the launch of the modern system of local radio in Britain. The technology was of no apparent demand.

Wireless telephony seemed useful during wartime but broadcasting? The latter seemed to have no use.

Back in 1916, David Sarnoff of the American Marconi Company, thought of a plan to make the radio a ‘household utility’ like a radio music box; a medium for entertainment, information and education.

The radio service that developed in America was commercial, envisaging broadcasting as a means of selling products to the public, or, put another way, of delivering audiences to advertisers.

In Britain, broadcasting was perceived as a universal cultural resources, rather like schools and public libraries.

Wireless broadcasting began locally and then turned national under John Reith’s influence. This saw local radio virtually disappear (Gorham 1952: 78; Harvey and Robins 1994: 41).

What persisted were regional variations within what was a networked service controlled, if not originated, from London (Scannell & Cardiff 1991: 15).

In the 50s/60s, VHF/FM technology improved the quality of wireless & afforded low-power transmission. Stations that were a reasonable distance apart could share the same frequency. It made room for many more local stations.

The first local stations, a BBC monopoly, were not launched until 1967. By 1972, only about 40% of the radio audience had FM (Briggs 1995: 842).


Only in the 1980s did most pick up on the FM trend because the four national BBC networks switched to VHF/FM for better sound quality.

With more stations, the public service element was reduced. Previously, it had been justified on the basis of spectrum scarcity.

1973 — launch of a commercial of ‘independent’ local radio (ILR).

The Sound Broadcasting Act required the station to provide the ‘balance of programming’ that was a cardinal feature of public service.

In the 80s/90s there were even newer technologies — cable, satellite, digital transmission and the internet. The main aim of the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996 was to acknowledge the abundance of new technologies by deregulating them.

With scarcity no longer an issue, public service had to be justified differently.

Since the BBC is funded from a licence fee and not from advertising, it has a general obligation to offer what ‘the market’ cannot deliver to any acceptable standard or extent. including news and current affairs.

The 1990 Broadcasting Act largely divested ILR of its public service obligations; it is not even obliged to provide news. ‘There is no requirement for [independent] local radio to carry local news and insofar as it does so, there is nothing to prevent that local news being bought in from the local newspaper’ (Radio Authority 1995: 13).


Most stations do carry local news for the hard business sense reason that ILR can’t construct itself as local any other way. ILR’s main diet of popular music is nearly entirely non-local.

Organisational Issues

The similarities between ILR and the BBC stem from the competitive environment in which they operate.

Regular listening figures are produced by Radio Joint Audience Research Ltd (RAJAR) (Starkey 2004: 114-18).

  • ILR needs the numbers for advertising
  • The BBC needs the numbers to justify itself in terms of licence fee payers and the decennial charter renewals (BBC 2004: 135).

Local papers are seen as complementary to local news so there’s no need for national or international coverage. Local radio audiences however, seem to expect it.

The first ILR regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), would only allow the best-resourced stations to provide their own mix of news. The rest were required to broadcast a live 3-minute bulletin from Independent Radio News (IRN) followed by their own 2-minute local bulletin.

The Radio Authority (1991-2003) and Ofcom provided a lighter touch of regulation. Most stations could do their own.

pp. 19-20

The underlying national structures of BBC News, IRN and Sky News Radio provided the economies of scale to provide such comprehensive bulletins.

Regionalisation of resources threatens the autonomy of local journalism.

The BBC’s internal organisation is essentially metropolitan in nature and, outside of peak times, extensive programme sharing takes place. After deregulation: the original diversity of ownership within ILR was all but destroyed.

The biggest groups often determine programming and editorial policies centrally.


Technological Advances

With relative ease, a central, suitably equipped newsdesk can now create bespoke bulletins for each of the different stations within its area and send them out at once or at a predetermined time. Prerecording bulletins is a well-established practice.

The Chrysalis Group inserts different regional news bulletins and traffic news at predetermined points in the otherwise national programming in each service area.

Reporting remotely has been made easier by digital data transmission technology.


ISDN lines have made transmission cheaper. — Also see the BBC Community Bus.

The internet has made it easier to create even a quite elaborate news package in situ. Reporters no longer need to go back to base.

[[360 degree exploitation => BBCi? I think was the the pre-iPlayers plan. How relevant is this for the BBC these days (2022)? They delete quite a lot.]]

The internet can provide radio stations not available on the frequencies.

The internet has created a ‘technological’ localness in addition to the ‘geographical’ localness.


Radio stations are now streamed live or available as podcasts — anywhere.

Also, there’s diasporic listening.

McLuhan (2001) predicted in the 1960s that geographical displacement will be rendered less significant by the growth of the mass media.

Editorial issues


In some localities, shared identify is so strong that non-indigenous broadcasting is perceived with a scepticism bordering on resentment.

The appetite for local news is at its greatest here. See Merseyside, a very local focused city. Because the tv local news has traditionally been produced in Manchester, BBC Radio Merseyside and EMAP’s Radio City together regularly achieve the top two positions in the market (Boon 2005: 23).

Stations with the lowest audience shares in their regions are almost all around London.


p.25 Technology threatens and facilitates localness. Journalists can get and report stories quicker. Above all, new technology reminds us of how problematic a concept localness is. Where does it begin and end?

Localness is no longer geographical; it is a state of mind.

Attacking the Devil – note taking -chapter 1, Local Journalism and Local Media

Franklin, Bob ed. (2006) Local Journalism and Local Media: Making the Local News. Routledge.

Part I

[[This book was published 16 years ago so the references to local news action are a bit dated. The consolidation of the local press has increased since then. This week, August 2022, Reach journalists in Bristol are going on strike for better pay.]]

Chapter 1 — Attacking the Devil, Bob Franklin


In 2005, the Johnston Group bought the Scotsman publications, Trinity Mirror announced 300 job cuts, and Northcliffe tried to sell 110 local papers.

It all seemed gloom and doom but, in truth, local newspapers were, and are, very successful business enterprises (Mintel, 2005).

Big profits and high margins attract buyers and increase the concentration of ownership (Milmo 2005a, 2005b).


Even though sales are down, ads are up, and costs keep getting cut.

Journalism keeps seeing a reduction of the number of journalists and low wages, which eventually translates to low quality news (Barter 2005; Franklin & Murphy 1997).

The number of local papers has decreased over a 20 year time period by between 1995 and 2005 it stayed stable.

Circulation however has been falling.

Local newspapers mean business! p.7

The business strategy for local newspaper owners is to maximise revenue and minimise production costs. One way they can do this is because “local newspapers effectively enjoy a monopoly in local classified advertising.” This makes up more than two-thirds of overall revenues (Mintel 2005).

In 2004, “advertising revenues in the regional press reached £3,132 million. This accounted for a 20% share of total media advertising revenues.

The only higher percentage went to TV at 26%. Newspapers get 13%, magazines 12%, radio 4%, cinema 1% and the internet 4%.


Sustained ad income is key to local media profitability. Between 25% and 30% profit margins are typical for many local newspaper companies (Dear 2006). This is a reason why takeovers and mergers remain a constant feature of the industry.


“There has been a marked reduction in the number of companies publishing local newspapers.”

Companies maintain profit margins by doing the following:

  • Minimise production costs through new printing technologies, and
  • keeping labour costs low (Dear 2006).

Job cuts and non-replacement of staff also reduce production costs. “The NUJ argues that the strategy of cost-cutting by low wages and staff cuts and non-replacement, triggers a ‘spiral of decline’ in which you ‘end up with fewer page changes, fewer editions, less localised coverage and, inevitably, lower sales’ (Dear 2006: 8).

The consequence is editorial decline. Making money while sales fall has a critical impact on the newsgathering and reporting process.

  • centralising subeditors means subs have little local knowledge.
  • economic efficiency is high but the tie with the local community is ruptured (Lockwood 1999: 15).


“The real cost of ‘efficient’ printing is a shrinking news day with less time to investigate and report the news.”

“Newspapers are increasingly reporting ‘Yesterday’s news tomorrow’ (cited in Barter 2005: 4).

With printing staff fired, subs centralised and other admin tasks done elsewhere, buildings are mostly empty; then they get sold.

Location is important.

When offices are moved, the link between local papers and the local community and the local stories is broken. Being able to meet readers and local people is essential to ‘a healthy contacts book and a healthy local paper’ (Thom 2004: 21).

Fewer journalists also means an increasing reliance on press releases from local government or the Central Office of Information (Franklin 2004: 98-102) or copy from PA.

[[See Franklin (2004: 98-102) for how local newspapers rely on local government press offices; also Davis 2002: 24-25).]]


Harrison: journalists’ dependence on the ‘carefully prepared material provided by professional local government PROs’ has become so extensive that the town hall is becoming the last bastion of good municipal journalism [[said ironically]] (1998: 168).

Since 1997, and the election of Labour, there has been increasingly routine incursions by national, political, and government communication organisations such as the Government News Network (GNN) and the Central Office of Information into local media networks in order to manage and set the agenda for local discussions of gov. policy initiatives (Franklin and Richardson, 2002).

News has been standardised. Peter Oborne (1999) wrote about how a single press release with Blair’s byline was published verbatim in 100 different local newspapers: the only word changed was the name of the town.

This effectively leads to outsourcing news, using PA copy, which is flexible and cost-effective. “By default, PA has become the UK’s monopoly reporter” (Aspinall 2005: 2).

To increase circulation, the following has taken place:

  • there has been a shift to tabloid size
  • there is more tabloid content
  • news is seldom anything the council is doing
  • there is more emphasis on entertainment, consumer items and reports, and focus on human interest.

There is less investigative or critical journalism.

Low-paid and under-resourced journalists are more likely to be ‘supping’ with the devil rather than ‘attacking’ him.

There are a fewer reporters and a greater emphasis on the number of stories and not the quality of stories. Reporters are mostly rewriting press releases. There is also less training.

“All we’re doing is just trying to keep circulation up as a horse for advertising.”


Aspinall, C. (2005) ‘The news monopoly’, Free Press, 144, January/February p.2

Barter, M. (2005) ‘It’s money that matters’, Free Press, July / August, pp. 4-5

Davis, A. (2002) Public Relations Democracy, London: Sage.

Dear, J. (2006) ‘Put people before profits’, The Guardian, 2 January, p.8.

Franklin, B. (2004) Packaging Politics: Political Communication in Britain’s Media Democracy, London: Arnold, 2nd edn.

Franklin, B. (2005) ‘McJournalism? The local press and the McDonaldization thesis’, in Allan, S. (ed.) Journalism: Critical Essays, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, pp. 137-51.

Franklin, B. and Murphy, D. (1997) ‘The local rag in tatters? The decline of Britain’s local press’, in Bromley, M. and O’Malley, T. (eds) The Journalism Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 214-29.

Franklin, B. and Murphy, D. (1998) Making the Local News; Local Journalism in Context, London; Routledge.

Franklin, B. and Richardson, J. (2002) ‘Priming the Parish pump: political marketing and news management in local political communication networks’, The Journal of Political Marketing, 1 (1), pp. 117-49.

Hamer, M. (2000) The Press Association at Work, Unpublished MA thesis, John Moores University, Liverpool.

Hammond, S. (2000) Reaching the Regions: Government Communications and the Regional Media, Unpublished MA thesis, Trinity and All Saints University College, Leeds.

Harrison, S. (1998) ‘The local government agenda: news from the town hall’, in Franklin, B. and Murphy, D. (eds) Making the Local News: Local Journalism in Context, London: Routledge, pp. 157-70.

Lloyd, Chris (1999) Attacking the Devil: 130 Years of the Northern Echo. Darlington, Northern Echo.

Mintel (2005) Regional Newspapers, Mintel: Newspaper Society.

Murphy, D. (1976) The Silent Watchdog, London: Constable.

Oborne, P. (1999) Alastair Campbell, New Labour and the Rise of the Media Class, London: Aurum Press.

Thom, C. (2004) ‘Location is everything’, Press Gazette, 18 June, p.21

The Bristol Post apparently had a deal with Cary Grant to feature him whenever he came back to Bristol.

Local Journalism and Local Media

Making the local news — notes #1

Franklin, Bob (ed) (2006) Local Journalism and Local Media: Making the local news. Routledge (link).


Declining number of local papers

The decline is in relation to both:

  • Readership
  • Circulation

Causes include the Consolidation of Local Paper Ownership:

  • centralising production
  • separates journalists from readers

In a pursuit of minimising production costs, the following takes place:

  • increased reliance on news agencies
  • PR sources
    • Local government
    • Central Government
    • Local interest groups

Increased competition from other sources such as:

  • local radio
  • regional TV
  • microlocal news services such as BBC news services in regional newsrooms. (Aside: This might be the reason why LDRs go to papers now?)

New Digital Technologies

Advanced technologies mean the rise of

  • citizen journalism
  • loss of advertising to other online sources

Cost cutting has also meant

  • loss of buildings
  • no printing press
  • working from home (WFH) (leading to a loss of team solidarity and social capital?)

Barbie Zelizer (2004, Taking Journalism Seriously) writes about the parallel universe of talking about the local media theoretically in academia, and journalism practice.

In terms of Business Criteria, local newspapers are a success. Their profit rates are as high as 35%.

As tools of democracy however, they are a failure.

What they should be doing is the following:

  • offering independent and critical commentary on local issues;
  • Making local elites accountable;
  • Providing a forum for local views on community concerns; and,
  • ‘Holding the ring’ in debates of significant issues.

There is, however, an inherent tension between newspapers as businesses as opposed to an institution of local democracy (Franklin & Murphy, 1998).

Chapter 16 looks at the relationship between local government PR, written by Shirley Harrison. The current tensions in Bristol make this chapter particularly interesting. The final chapter looks at FOI and the local media; written by Heather Brooke. (Again, of particular interest in Bristol.)

Changes in the local and regional press have been evident in the last few years.

In the 1970s, the literature on local media shows a stable world.

Local newspapers were locally owned, locally produced, employed local people as journalists, reported local concerns and were read by local people.

References for this stability include the following:

  • Cox, H and Morgan D. (1974) City Politics and the Press, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Franklin B. and Murphy, D. (1998) Making the Local News; Local Journalism in Context, London Routledge.
  • Jackson, I. (1971) The Provincial Press, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Murphy, D. (1974) The Silent Watchdog. London: Constable. [About local journalists’ and newspapers’ roles in sustaining local power relations]

I managed to find the three books published in the 70s for around £5 each second-hand.

  • The local press now is no longer owned locally;
  • The offices are not likely to be central or local;
  • Decisions are made remotely;
  • Paper production not local;
  • Journalists are less likely to be local;
  • There’s an increasing reliance on imported agency copy;
  • Declining sales of local papers means that fewer people read locally;
  • Less likely to report local stories and issues;
  • Shift away from seeing local papers as central to the local political life of communities and a vital ingredient in local democracy, and understanding that local papers are a business.
bird with wings in the form of a book

Deadlines and setting/meeting them

This post is a continuation from my previous one about having a timeline and meeting deadlines.

Since I’m a researcher, I thought I would research it. There are two parts to this process, as I mentioned in the previous post; 1) meeting deadlines to progress with my research/article writing; and 2) setting deadlines for writing a book.

As it happens, I’ve just been agreeing an author’s deadlines about their next book with their publisher. The deadlines are split into an initial two months and then six weeks between the last five. It’s the kind of book that works in batches so this process works fine. The complete manuscript is due at the end of six months.

Six weeks feels a little long for iterations of research, however, so I thought I’d try two-week deadlines. How do I provide an incentive to meet them though? External deadlines/pressure feel different to internal ones. If I don’t meet it, I evaluate my behaviour and conclude that I’ve acted just fine.

I was thinking of an app where you stake a certain amount of money and if you don’t do the corresponding act, you lose the money.

Or one idea that came to me in the shower was I could set up a scheduled post on this blog. When I meet the deadline, I can post what I’ve written. When I don’t, it will publish as a blank and be visibly incomplete. I like that idea. It seems very doable as well.


Learning how to deal with deadlines is part of the research process as much as finding out who your fellow researchers are, and what your area of study looks like. When you begin a PhD, part of your role as a student is to find out where you fit.

You have to learn how to become a researcher; you have to increase your abilities, meet deadlines, and strengthen your writing qualities:

Ultimately, the supervisor’s role in providing feedback and setting deadlines is crucial in developing students’ abilities and in strengthening students’ writing quality (12). –Leite, Paditha, and Cecatti (2019)

The source for the above points on the supervisor’s role is

Darcy Haag Granello (2001) “Promoting Cognitive Complexity in Graduate Written Work: Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Pedagogical Tool to Improve Literature Reviews” Counselor education and supervision

[I’m reading through the literature to figure out the best practice for deadlines TBC]

human hands knitting sheeps (Rkl painting)

Setting up a check-in group

I’m trying to find the best way to provide regular deadlines for myself. I tend to think, read, process a lot before I write and so I need regular scheduled points to make myself produce output.

If there are too few deadlines, there is too much work and the quality and content suffers.

Just the right number of deadlines, spaced out, means less work each time, and better quality. It also provides time for revisions and thinking too.

If the deadlines are too frequent, however, then there is not enough time to do the work required.

I’m going to start with weekly deadlines, and see how they go. Then if that’s too frequent, I’ll try fortnightly ones.

For that purpose I’ve created a Slack channel for checking in with myself and others.

If you would like to join then do email me and I’ll add you on. I’m still working on the rules and the constraints but it feels like a good idea. joanna @ Drop me a line if you’d like a check-in buddy for your deadlines.

Maybe a template would be helpful.

Needing a schedule and an end date

I was reminded today that I’d been meeting with my Patreon mentor Helen for two years* and the overall output I’ve produced is not much. At least, according to those who know how much output there should be. I’ve written up a survey, a few case studies (still incomplete) and I’m nearly finished with my first article.

So what is my end date? I don’t actually have one. Or at least I didn’t have one until today. I have just liked the idea of doing this forever or maybe for 10 years; or have I?

I want to finish this PhD so I can learn the right skillset and have the right criteria to at some point work with a university or even apply for academic positions. That seems positive to me.

So I do want to finish. Or at least part of me does.

One way to figure out how much other parts resist what I’m doing is by writing up a schedule and noting any resistance.

With feedback from HK, it seems reasonable to write six articles in two years. I have two more to write for 2022, and then three for 2023.

Validity check: The PhD by thesis requires five to seven articles so that fits.

A fellow student talked about her work at the group meeting and really inspired me in further matters:

  1. What is the demographic of the Twitter activists/citizen journalists;
  2. Autoethnographically: writing an academic article is journalism; noting how I write that counts as practice.
  3. Who is excluded? Who excludes themselves?

How much of my research is about the local political participation and how much is about researching how to do a PhD on local political participation?

Immediate Actions

  • Finish the article, send to HK before the end of the month.
  • Cut about 2000 words, let it flow better; make it make sense.
  • Plan two further articles for 2020
  1. Riots in Bristol and news framing
  2. demographics of citizen journalists in Bristol

Plan three further articles for 2023

  1. local media? local journalism? (See Franklin, 2006; Routledge Handbook on the local media) how local is the coverage?
  2. Citizen journalists in other cities (what’s the angle? LDRs in cities linked to quantity of activism?)
  3. Diary research on the use of mayoral time.

Schedule for PhD


28 February – Final version of Article 1

15 June – Article 2

15 November – Article 3


15 April – Article 4

15 August – Article 5

15 December – Article 6

And then I have to fit in the application to a university for a thesis by publication and a 20,000 words or so for a dissertation. I also have to wait to see whether the articles are accepted, any revisions, how long it takes to get published, submit to different journals etc.

Submitting by 2025 seems a possibility.

Schedule for writing a book on how to do a self-studied PhD?

??? This was in the back of my mind but not really something I thought about. How about I think about it now?

If I was planning out a book, which I do want to write, I’d write about setting up a schedule for how to be a professional researcher and complete a PhD in Chapter 1.

15 March – outline for a book on how to do a self-studied PhD.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

*It’s actually nearly three years because I began in July 2019

Tightening up the literature review and my thoughts

sitting on the bench in autumn square (Uma painting)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I want to say that I’m still going strong. I’ve nearly finished my first article, which I intend to submit to a journal.

I have got to such a stage of writing and research that I filled out a research proposal form for PhD at a university yesterday.

I don’t think I want to go to a university but I wanted to see if I could make sense of my research and provide a succinct literature review for my topic.

The field on the form suggested a maximum of only 750 words so I had to be very selective. I also had to make sure all my references were correct, and I filled in gaps I had previously missed — such as local political participation.

All in all, it was a great experience.

I’m posting the 750 word literature review plus references below.

PhD Title: What is the effect of social media on local political participation and knowledge, compared to local and national mainstream media?

What is journalism?

The idealised version of journalism, “how the profession makes sense of itself” (Deuze, 2005) is one where newspapers operate independently from private and political interests, and try to hold power to account (Palmer, Toff, and Nielsen, 2020). It’s a self-serving view of journalism, and readers who see their own problems failing to appear in the local press may start to doubt it.

Cutbacks in local newspapers with centralisation of local staff make it harder for the media to do their jobs. It leads to 1) local news deserts where local newspapers don’t exist and also 2) content deserts where newspapers don’t cover what is important to readers (Kiriya, 2020).

When the local press gets too close to the people in power then citizen journalism covers local news in ways that the local media, seemingly cannot, with community-driven or hyperlocal journalism that emerge due to the “public’s dissatisfaction with legacy media” (Metzgar, Kurpius, and Rowley 2011, 782).

Citizen journalism

Citizen journalism has been growing with the spread of digital technology and social media, helped by the reduced costs of publishing digitally (Miller, 2019). It’s conceptualized by scholars in varying ways such as the industry-preferred “user-generated content”, but also as “citizen witnessing” (Allan 2013), “audience material” (Wardle and Williams 2010), “networked journalism” (Beckett and Mansell 2008), “process journalism” (Jarvis 2009), “participatory journalism” (Singer et al. 2011), “alternative journalism” (Atton and Hamilton 2008), “liquid journalism” (Deuze 2008) and “ambient journalism” (Hermida 2010; cited in Luce and Jackson, 2017).

But there are two main obstacles to the impact that it can have: 1) worry about adopting a public voice in terms of the ramifications it could have to them personally (Luce, Jackson, 2017); and 2) trust from the audience, leading to authority as journalists.

Citizen journalists may have access to the public sphere, but they “do not have the power of news organizations behind them, nor can they claim the authority of membership in a socially recognized interpretative community” (Luce, Jackson, 2017; Bock 2011, 2). They are ‘untrained’ journalists (Mutsvairo, Salgado 2020) without degrees and often seen as ‘ad hoc’ (Allan 2013).

Citizen journalism has helped marginalised communities gain public voice and empowerment, be it racial minorities (Gabriel 2016), feminist movements (Valle 2014), indigenous communities (Davies 2014) or, increasingly, globalised social movements (DeLuca and Lawson 2014). Representation in the media matters (Williams, 2019)

Gaining authority and trust, and gatekeeping

Audiences might struggle to see citizen journalists as having legitimacy when not attached to established media. Authority can be borrowed by responding to the agenda that mainstream media covers (Cushion, McDowell-Naylor & Thomas 2021) but pursuing one’s own agenda, means you can’t rely on that ‘authority’.

The media’s authority relies on the norms of what news values can be reported (Hartley 1982; Shoemaker & Cohen 2006). When you report as a dissident journalist (Hartley, 1982), your route to authority is different.

Similar to how the professionalisation of the radical press was connected to the “subordination of the press to the social order” (Curran and Seaton 7th ed) and to the elimination of that radical press in the mid-1830s, professionalisation is also a way of gatekeeping who enters the profession. They say this far and no further. The axiom then becomes: news is what is printed by the media (Hartley 1982).

The media act as gatekeepers (White, 1950; Gieber, 1956; Breed, 1955; Galtung and Ruge, 1965; Vos, 2015); and, as Vos (2015) writes, the lifting of restrictions on space and printing costs “has not led to the termination of gatekeeping” (p.11).

Journalism as an institution

Journalists describe themselves in similar terms across mediums and countries as well (Sparrow, 1999; and Cook, 1998) because journalism can be seen as an institution: “humanly devised constraints” that “create order and reduce uncertainty” (North 1991). They “influence behavior by providing the cognitive scripts, categories and models that are indispensable for action” (Hall & Taylor, 1996, p. 948; as cited in Hanitzch 2007).

Much of the learning happens while on the job (SBB, 2007). As Deuze (2006) described it, “the status quo in the industry is the ideal one, hence newcomers only need to internalise what their senior peers already do” (p.21) (Hallen and Mancini, 2004; Ryfe, 2006).

The rise of citizen journalism represents an ongoing struggle over this type of “discursive authority” (Hanitzsch & T. P. Vos, 2017, p.16).

Using case studies and an ethnographic approach, I look at how social capital (Coleman, 1990; Paxton, 2002; Portes, 1998; Mansbridge, 1999) works in building up trust and authority through Twitter networks and social media.


Allan, Stuart. 2013. Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning Journalism in Times of Crisis. Cambridge: Polity.

Atton, Chris and James F. Hamilton. 2008. Alternative Journalism. London: SAGE.

Beckett, C. and Mansell, R. (2008) Crossing Boundaries: New Media and Networked Journalism

Bock, Mary. 2011. “Citizen Video Journalists and Authority in Narrative: Reviving the Role of the Witness.” Journalism 13 (5): 1–15.

Breed, W. (1955). Social control in the newsroom: A functional analysis. Social Forces, 33(4), 326–335

Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Harvard University Press

Cook, T. E. 1998. Governing with the news, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cushion, S., McDowell-Naylor, D. & Thomas, R. (2021) Why National Media Systems Matter: A Longitudinal Analysis of How UK Left-Wing and Right-Wing Alternative Media Critique Mainstream Media (2015–2018) Pages 633-652 | Published online: 15 Mar 2021

Davies, R. (2014) Civic Crowdfunding: Participatory Communities, Entrepreneurs and the Political Economy of Place.

Deuze, Mark. 2008. “The Changing Context of News Work: Liquid Journalism for a Monitorial Citizenry.” International Journal of Communication 2: 848–865

Gabriel, Deborah. 2016. “Blogging while Black, British and Female: A Critical Study on Discursive Activism.” Information, Communication and Society.

Galtung, J. and Ruge, M. (1965) The Structure of Foreign News.

Gieber, W. (1964). News is what newspapermen make it. In L. A. Dexter & D. M. White (Eds.), People, society, and mass communication (pp. 173–182). New York, NY: Macmillan (Original work published 1956).

Hallen, D., and Mancini, P (2004) Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hanitzsch, T. (2007). “Deconstructing Journalism Culture: Toward a Universal Theory.” Communication Theory 17 (2007): 367–385. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2007.00303.x 

Hanitzsch, T. & Vos, T. P. (2017) Journalistic Roles and the Struggle Over Institutional Identity: The Discursive Constitution of Journalism. Communication Theory

Hartley, J. (1982) Understanding News.

Hermida, A. (2010) Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism. Journalism Practice 4 (3), 297-308

Ilya Kiriya (2020) “Central And Local Media In Russia: Between central control and local initiatives” in The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalism, edited by Agnes Gulyas and David Baines.

Jarvis, Jeff. 2009. “Product v. Process Journalism: The Myth of Perfection v. Beta Culture.” BuzzMachine Blog, June 7 [

Luce, Ann., Jackson, Daniel. & Thorsen, Einar (2017) Citizen Journalism at The Margins,  Journalism Practice, Volume 11, 2017 – Issue 2-3 Published Online: 16 Sep 2016

Mansbridge, J. (1999). Altruistic trust. In M. E. Warren (Ed.), Democracy and Trust (pp. 290–309). Cambridge University Press cited in Patulny, R. V., & Lind Haase Svendsen, G. (2007). Exploring the social capital grid: bonding, bridging, qualitative, quantitative. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 27(1/2), 32–51. 

Mutsvairo, B. and Salgado, S. (2020) Is citizen journalism dead? An examination of recent developments in the field. Journalism. Pp.1–18 November 2, 2020.

Paxton, P. (2002). Social Capital and Democracy: An Interdependent Relationship. American Sociological Review, 67(2), 254–277

Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 1–25

Ryfe, D. (2006) `The Nature of News Rules’, Political Communication 23: 1-12.

Metzgar, Emily T.,  Kurpius, David D., Rowley, Karen M. (2011) Defining hyperlocal media: Proposing a framework for discussion

Miller, S. (2019) “Citizen Journalism”. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Oxford University Press USA. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.786

Singer, J. B., Hermida, A., Domingo, D., Heinonen, A., Paulussen, S., Quandt, T., … Vujnovic, M. (2011). Participatory journalism: Guarding open gates at online newspapers. Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Sparrow, B. H. 1999. Uncertain guardians: The news media as a political institution, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Valle, F. S., Thorsen, E., & Allan, S. (2014). Getting into the Mainstream: The Digital/Media Strategies of a Feminist Coalition in Puerto Rico. Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives Volume, 2, 211-266.

Vos, T. P. (2015). Revisiting gatekeeping theory during a time of transition. In T. P. Vos & F. Heinderyckx (Eds.), Gatekeeping in transition (pp. 3–24). New York, NY: Routledge.

Wardle, C., Williams, A. (2010) Beyond user-generated content: a production study examining the ways in which UGC is used at the BBC

White, D. M. (1950). The “gate keeper”: A case study in the selection of news. Journalism Quarterly, 27, 383–390.

Williams, M.S. (Ed) (2019) Jane Mansbridge: Participation, Deliberation, Legitimate Coercion.

Resources for learning how to PhD

man tries to reach the moon

[You can listen to this blogpost on my podcast too ]

Update: I have added further links to blogs and resources that have helped me.

When I began the process of gaining a PhD by publication, it was part of a ‘learning how to learn’ trajectory. I had completed the Learning how to Learn course (a free MOOC), I had read Scott Young’s book and followed his blog, and I was in the mindset of breaking everything down to its most basic component.

How do we take notes?

How do you do a literature review?

I took a course (another MOOC) on doing a literature review and that helped a lot.

I found Dr Helen Kara’s blog, whose style and approach have inspired me a lot. She writes about research methods –the process, not the content — and just knowing that this was topic worthy enough to research on its own has opened up many more conceptual doors for me.

Through her and Twitter and my new understanding of research, I have come across more writers on how to do research.

I find Raul Pacheco-Vega’s work invaluable. He explains things, he highlights the ‘hows’ of research. He breaks down all the tasks that lecturers and professors long ago internalised into their processes, and he clearly explains how to follow and learn from his methods.

I follow him on Twitter @RaulPacheco and his blog is at

A very useful article of his I was reading this morning was about mind mapping the literature, finding the gap and writing paragraphs in your literature review.

I’ve been writing an article, an autoethnographic approach to understanding how one goes from citizen to journalist. When I look out to the literature, however, I often get overwhelmed by how much of it there is to map; how much there is to read. And there’s so much in other topics as well that it makes me pause in hesitation.

I was confronted with this idea of ‘there’s too much to learn’ yesterday and funnily enough, I had an answer straightaway.

My youngest went to the aerospace museum in Filton a couple of days ago. She went to see the Concorde at its last resting place. Tickets were £8500 she told me wide eyed and she knew that the last flight commander to bring that plane home was Captain Mark Bannister. These two bits of information were clear to her and she learned them straightaway.

I thought back to when I wanted to be a pilot when I was little, around her age and until I was much older. So, I asked her, would you like to fly a plane one day?

She looked at me and said, ‘No. The flight panel,’ she told me, ‘had a million buttons. Well not a million, maybe a thousand,’ she added with a nod and a look of you know what I mean? ‘How would I ever learn them?’

And that reminded me of how we do learn. ‘The pilot doesn’t start by learning each button on its own,’ I thought out loud to her. ‘The buttons probably fit in their own section. There might be eight sections on that panel. The pilot learns those first and then they look within that section to break down what different buttons do. That’s how you learn lots of things.’

She got bored at that point and walked off but now I have thought of an even better analogy — an actual analogy rather than an explanation. In a big supermarket, there are thousands and thousands of products. We don’t need to know all the products individually, we know that we are looking for bananas. We know there is a fresh fruit and vegetables section so we go there and look for the fruit. The things we need to know at any one time, are bounded. That’s comforting and manageable. Knowing how to approach a task gives us that sense of certainty. Knowing what the boundaries are for each task, helps.

When I was first doing a PhD, and even now when I look at ALL the literature that is out there, the vastness of it looks to me, like those thousands of buttons looked to my daughter in the Concorde. Learning how to do the next right step and process is comforting and makes research manageable.

From Helen Kara‘s and Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blogs I learned how to take notes for each paper –I use the ICA method and keep track in an Excel spreadsheet; I — introduction, C– conclusion, A — abstract. I copy and paste those three parts into a spreadsheet. I also use it to keep track of quotes and topics.

I have learned to note-take with highlighters in Microsoft Edge–a browser where you can use many tools on PDFs. I don’t have the space in our tiny flat to print out and keep track of all my research unfortunately. Maybe one day when I have an office.

Raul writes about learning to concept map by hand first but this site on concept mapping has really helped me. It helps find the linked papers to your own.

The tools help enormously. They make the difference between giving up and writing the next word, paragraph and even research paper. Most importantly they help with the writing and that’s the one thing I wasn’t doing enough of.

I’ve also found that using the highlighting method and the ICA dump helps me get to the end of reading a paper. One of my brain’s saboteur voices tries to stop me reading often by saying things like ‘why don’t you stop and research that part,’ or ‘you should be taking notes. What’s the point of reading if you’re just going to forget it all?’ etc. Well, now I am taking notes, I am highlighting and I am fulfilling the task I set for myself.

It all helps. I’ve written a first draft of a first paper. I’ve narrowed down the methodology I’m using, I’ve discovered a couple more research topics to pursue, I’ve submitted an abstract to a conference, I’ve written out my autoethnographic part, and now I need to map it to the literature.

And that’s why this morning I was reading Raul’s article on mind mapping the literature. I’m getting there, paper by paper.

Further resources

  • Research Insiders blog (link): Succeeding in a Research Higher Degree
  • Recommendations on Research Insiders blog (link)